She’s beautiful, isn’t she?
Ever since I can remember, the Mamacita Song commanded attention wherever she went for her soft, elegant and timeless beauty.
Even during an excursion to Giverny, Monet’s lush, lily padded home, my mother was able to steal the spotlight from the painter’s rose gardens, as an older female tourist — noticeably dumbstruck at my mother’s beauty — asked to take a photo of her alone.
As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy growing up with a mother like that. Especially when your own childhood was horribly awkward, chubby and graceless, to say the least.
But I never felt any serious rivalry or jealousy toward my mother, for the simple reason that she has always been — and always will be — my best friend.
For a small woman all of four apples high (that’s Smurf talk to mean the word ‘petite’) she is larger than life.
And I’m not just talking about the hazel eyes, pert, narrow nose that I will spend my whole life envying and her luminescent skin that make up her outward charm.
No, it’s her indomitable, irrepressible spirit and talent that makes her so bewitching both as a mother, and as a woman.
She is perhaps, no more angelic than when she sings in her church choir. With age, the fresh, clarity of a singer’s voice in youth has a tendency to leaden. But by some divine miracle, that hasn’t happened to my mother’s voice, which never fails to do to a crowd what her beauty does for others.
As soon as her soprano voice rings aloud, any restless, bored fidgeting in the church pews, stops. Any distracted thoughts among parishioners will cease and desist. Bobbing heads dangerously close to dozing off will rise up in surprise. And, then, suddenly, the whole church will fall into hushed silence as we all sit on the edge of our seat.
I’ve witnessed this scene time and time again and have always inwardly chuckled at the hypnotic effect she’s able to command with just one, clearly-held, four-beat note.
It’s hard to convey in words the sweetness of my mom’s singing voice, but let me describe it in a collection of curated adjectives:
soprano; sparkly; clear; innocent; soaring strength; uplifting.
In fact, on the last, that’s exactly what her voice will do: it will literally make you sit taller, particularly when she hits the high E’s or high C’s with astounding confidence, force and pitch.
Then, there’s her laugh. All the more remarkable, given that her life has been a long and complicated one.
The one thing I miss most about home, is laughing with the Mamacita Song. We will kick off into fits of laughter that no one can understand. We have a special place, she and I. It’s her living room space we’ve christened ‘Cafe Helen,’ (her Anglicized name for Canadians), where we will have our morning coffee in a sunlit piano room, talk about everything and nothing, and invariably lapse into sidesplitting, bellyaching giggles and wordless guffaws that draw tears and knee slaps.
There are also different types of people in life. Those who blame the universe for their lot in life; those who think they’ve been hard done by, and who take a perverse kind of satisfaction in wallowing in self-pity.
Then, there are those whose light just won’t — absolutely refuses — to be extinguished. In recent years, the one lesson my mother has been hammering hard into my stubborn brain, is to always be thankful.
To take pleasure in the little things in life.
Because to find joy where there seemingly is none, is perhaps the hardest thing of all.
But there is, perhaps no greater master of this, than the Mamacita Song.
Sometimes, I swear this light of hers actually takes on a physicality and manifests itself into a sparkle in her eyes — a colour that will fleck back and forth between hazel, grey and gold.
She is a force of life, my mother. Despite the times that life tried to knock her down, it wasn’t enough to extinguish the ever-burning flame that burns within this ball of love and fire.
My brother and I are the first ones to experience this love. For when she loves, she loves fiercely.
For all these reasons, and so much more, I would like to say to the woman I look up to most in life, to the friend who is my rock and to the mother who sacrificed so, so, so very much to raise my brother and I the best that she could: Thank you.
With all my heart.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Sa rang hae.